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Human Resource Management in Higher Education

Introduction to human resource management and higher education

Attila Pausits

In recent years, university policy in Europe has been characterised by increasing reliance on the differentiation of the university system as a modernisation factor, by the catalytic forces of the Bologna Process toward shifts in thinking and acting within higher education institutions (HEI). Meanwhile, these institutions are being granted more autonomy and their behaviour in the resulting competitive situation (Hödl, E.; Zegelin, W., 1999) is expected to become more customer-oriented (Hansen, U., 1999; Nullmeier, F., 2000; Pausits, A., 2006), more cost-aware, and more sensitive towards the needs of society.

The approach adopted by public authorities with regard to universities has essentially transformed, and the shift towards enlarged ‘managerialism’ (Enders, J. et al., 2005, Pellert A., 1999) has been seriously influenced by ideas of ‘academic capitalism’ (Slaughter and Leslie, 1997) and ‘entrepreneurial universities’ (Clark, B. R., 1998).

Enders et al. developed three different scenarios for the future of higher education in Europe (Enders, J. et al., 2005). The characteristics of Centralia – the first model – would include a state-oriented organisation, European integration, synchronisation and big organisations. The second model – Octavia – would harness institutional and economic developments on the way toward a network economy and focus on control by the academic community as its crucial identity. Thirdly, in contrast to Centralia, attention is focused on a market orientation, small organisations and high freedom for decision-making or integration to describe what Enders et al. called ‘Vitis Vinifera’. Without predicting which “world” will become reality, it is clear that the wind of change has already arrived at the European higher education landscape.

File et al. point out that European HEIs will act in a setting far less secure than that of only a few decades ago. They will benefit from new self-government, which deals with crucial issues such as student selection, influencing tuition fee levels, setting employees’ income policies and deciding autonomously which programmes to offer. These will be new aspects of the universities’ interior “management existence”. Modes of competition for students, staff and contracts will increase significantly. More liberal regulations lead to greater financial independence, further chances and higher risks (File, J. et al., 2005). Academic administration and management have become increasingly complex: the institutions have so far become larger and more multifaceted, the tasks have multiplied (modern “multiversities”) and therefore the need to provide skilled management and administration has increased (Kerr, C., 2001). More management tasks have to be fulfilled at the institutional level than before. Professional HRM is an important prerequisite to enable the HEI to perceive itself as an autonomous organisation (Bleiklie, I., 2005) instead of being subordinate to central government.

Specific services of HRM have been established and developed during the last decade. Universities as knowledge-based organisation have a strong focus on the quality of their academic staff as they are responsible for teaching and research.  Another important prerequisite to a successful university are their services, which highly depend on the quality of the administration and management.

The quality of management and academia will depend on the quality of HRM and functions. Interestingly state of the art literature on HRM is rather rare. Only a few publications deal with this management field in Europe. The following publication is a first set of papers, which cover concepts and functions of HRM at universities. One could argue that there are no differences in function and services of a HRM department in a company and university. Following publication identifies those important elements, which make the work at universities different but also describe issues which are common. 


Background information of the creation of the HRM e-book

This e-book is a selected collection of student papers on the course ‘Human Resource Management in Higher Education’ in MARIHE program. The course ‘Human Resource Management in Higher Education’, led by Attila Pausits with contributions from Hans Pechar and others, aims to enable students to: 1) understand the theoretical foundations and the strategic role and practical instruments of HRM in HEIs 2) to assess the strategic role of HRM in HEI and 3) to implement some of the most crucial instruments of HR management in their specific institutional context. Through guiding students’ self-learning and group-work, lectures and workshops, the course introduces the HR context in HEI – extent of institutional autonomy for HR decisions in HEI in labour market conditions, discusses the current challenges of HR management in Europe and the dimensions of HR, analyses the instruments and methods of strategic HR management, manpower planning, staffing and workload targets, staff recruitment, staff development and appraisal of performance, provides an introduction into the structures, roles and responsibilities for HR management and also into the contracts, remuneration and incentives generally used in this field. (MARIHE; 2014)


Introduction of MARIHE program

In Europe as well as in other regions of the world fundamental transition processes are taking place in the systems of research, innovation and higher education: from regulation to deregulation and competition, from steering to market, from administration to management. Higher education and research institutions need highly trained experts who are able to analyse these new contexts and who have management and leadership skills to deal with the changes. The Master in Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MARIHE) is an Erasmus Mundus Masters Course offered by a consortium of Danube University Krems (Austria), University of Tampere (Finland), Beijing Normal University (China) and University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück (Germany).

MARIHE provides students a unique opportunity to develop a sound understanding of higher education systems and university development around the world. Students have the opportunity to study in at least three different universities and countries. During an internship provided by international enterprises and organisations they get insight into fields of practice.

As an Erasmus Mundus Masters Course, MARIHE is supported by the Erasmus Mundus Programme of the European Commission. By these standards, it is one of the leading master programmes in Europe. MARIHE addresses university graduates that want to pursue a career in the higher education and research sector as managers, administrators, consultants, policy analysts, researchers and decision makers. Possible employers are higher education and research institutions, public bodies such as ministries for science and education, enterprises specializing in education, think tanks and non-governmental organizations. Graduates of MARIHE are able take the lead in the future management and development of research and innovation in higher education.

 International and European reform agendas have recently focused on a number of measures that are argued to lead to the modernisation of higher education as a sector and turn the HEIs into strategic organisational actors to develop countries and societies. The programme supports the development with respect to the professionalisation of institutional leadership and management functions accompanied by an emerging training and support structure for institutional managers and leaders. MARIHE is a cooperation and mobility programme in the field of higher education that aims to enhance the quality of European higher education and to promote dialogue and understanding between people and cultures through cooperation with Third-Countries. In addition, it contributes to the development of human resources and the international cooperation capacity of HEIs in Third Countries by increasing mobility between the European Union and these countries.

The curriculum of MARIHE reflects on three perspectives on the change logics involved in the worldwide developments in higher education and in HEIs:

  • the perspective on Systems in Transition, focusing on general developments and on globalization and regionalization (Europe, Africa, Americas, Asia) in higher education
  • the perspective on System-Institution-Interaction (e.g. funding of research and innovation)
  • the perspective on Institutional Change (e.g. “change management”).

Furthermore, modules on Theoretical Background introduce fundamental issues of higher education management. Another emphasis is given to Transferable Skills (e.g. research methods, presentation skills, languages).


Structure of the e-book

The selected course papers included in this e-book provide important perspectives of HRM concepts and functions in HEIs. The discussion of diverse experiences, contexts provide insights from various corners of the world. The e-book hence is structured in the following manner. The first six chapters focus on specific HRM concepts and theoretical questions, while the following four chapters allow the readers to gain a deeper insight into the functions of Human Resources Management in Higher Educational Institutes.

In the first paper of the e-book authors Paul Green and Aytaj Pashayeva start out by introducing the concept of expert organizations and then provide a convincing argument on why universities can be considered expert/professional organisations. This is followed by an assessment of implications and by a summary of different approaches to improve HRM in expert organisations.

In the second chapter Vesna Holubek and Patrik Punčo propose that HEIs can be viewed as learning organisations as they are also subject to constant change. The first part of their paper introduces the concept of learning organisations using the conceptual framework established by Senge (1994), while also shares some critical responses to the concept. In the second part, the authors discuss the special features of universities – pointing out some distinctions when compared to for-profit organizations – and the challenges these institutions were forced to face in the past few decades. The paper conclusion draws attention to the essential role that HRM can play in supporting the culture of learning.

Authors Pei Min and Long Tran Dinh Thanh further elaborate on this important role in the next chapter by providing a detailed list of the instruments and practices used by HRM, paying special attention to performance management and workforce planning.

Next, Michail Balyasin and Haftu Hindeya Gebremerkel show us how HRM interacts with different units of the universities and suggest ways to enhance HRM interaction. The authors have selected two universities – the Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia and the Siberian Federal University in Russia – to provide specific examples of HRM practice. Drawing on their experiences they formulate a rather negative conclusion about the lack of strategic HRM decisions and suggest a shift in mentality among university leaders.

In the following paper Layla Jorge Teixeira Cesar and Rebecca Maxwell Stuart argue that a balance is required between the multiple roles of academics in order to overcome the current crisis in HE experienced in the Western European countries. By shedding light on the underlying reasons of this crisis, the politics of academia, and the pressure placed on academic professionals either to research or deliver lectures, the authors provide an insight into the question why research is considered to play a more important role at an institutional level. They then go on to give us specific tools and mechanisms – for example teaching awards, better training opportunities etc. – to help to change this perception.

Katsia Mikalayeva, Nguyen Thanh Tung and Inga Zalyevska in the next chapter tackle the sensitive question of the identity struggle of new HE professionals, and the „unnecessary but real polarity between academics and non-academics“. The authors carefully examined and analyzed more than two-hundred UK and US job advertisements in order to clarify whether higher education profession can be considered as a distinctive career.

The second part of the book starts out with a chapter by Natalie Nestorowicz and Joo-Hyun Park, who present the strategies, directions and challenges of Human Resource Development in a HE setting.

Simona Calugareanu and Elif Ҫelik then analyse the issues related to tenure and tenure-track, providing a historical background and also pinpointing the challenges and opportunities of the system.

In the next paper Qi Sun and Meijia Lu apply the study results from Project MODERN (an EU-funded Structural Network under the Lifelong Learning programme ERASMUS) to analyze the current human resource training in China, pointing to the fact that these days „the higher education system is under the significant transition from academic heartland to modern marketization, which requires the working staffs from top leaders to managers with more competences in HEIs.“

In the last segment of the book Milos Milutinovic and Raihan Mahmood Kadery shift the focus to staff recruitment and evaluate the practice of recruitment policy at the University of Glasgow, UK and the University of Novi Sad, Serbia by providing detailed steps of the process. Their analysis and comparison show two highly distinct practices.



Bleiklie, I., Politics, Markets, Networks and European Higher Education, In: Enders, J. et al., (eds.) The European Higher Education and Research Landscape 2020: Scenarios and Strategic Debates Enschede, Center for Higher Education and Policy Studies (CHEPS) 2005: S. 161-169.

Clark, B. R., Creating Entrepreneurial Universities: Organisational Pathways to Transformation. IAU Press/Pergamon, Oxford, New York, Tokyo 1998

Enders, J., File, J., Huisman,J., Westerheiden, D. F., The European Higher Education and Research Landscape 2020: Scenarios and Strategic Debates. Center for Higher Education and Policy Studies (CHEPS), Enschede 2005

File,J., Beerkens, E., Leišyte, L., Salerno, C., Vitis Vinifera, the City of traders and Micro-Climates, In: Enders,J. et al., (eds.) The European Higher Education and Research Landscape 2020: Scenarios and Strategic Debates Enschede, Center for Higher Education and Policy Studies (CHEPS) 2005: S. 85-94.

Hanft, A.; (eds.), Hochschulen managen? - Zur Reformierbarkeit der Hochschulen nach Managementprinzipien. Luchterhand, Neuwied 2000

Hansen, U., Die Universität als Dienstleister: Thesen für ein leistungsfähigeres Management von Hochschulen, In: Stauss, B., Balderjahn, I., Wimmer, F. (eds.) Dienstleistungsorientierung in der universitären Ausbildung: Mehr Qualität im betriebswirtschaftlichen Studium, Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag, Stuttgart 1999: S. 369-385.

Hödl, E., Zegelin, W., Hochschulreform und Hochschulmanagement. Metropolis Verlag, Marburg 1999

Kerr, C., The Uses of the University, 5 edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge 2001

Nullmeier, F., Moderne Organisationsmodelle und die Zukunft der Hochschulen, In: Hanft, A., (Hrsg.) Hochschulen managen? Luchterhand, Neuwied 2000: S. 99-119.

Pausits, A., Student Relationship Management. Universität Flensburg, Flensburg 2006 www.zhb-flensburg.de/dissert/pausits/pausits_srm.pdf (28.09.2007)

Pellert, A., Die Universität als Organisation: die Kunst, Experten zu managen. Böhlau Verlag, Wien 1999

Slaughter, S., Leslie, L.L, Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Enterpreneurial University. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997





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